This month in the Jump-Start Your Imagination series, our focus is on creative writing exercises for worldbuilding and prompts to get you going on your worldbuilding. As mentioned in a previous article, worldbuilding is a necessary process for more than fantasy and science fiction. In all types of writing (fiction, non-fiction, stories, games, songs, etc…) it is important to build a realm (real or imaginary) that envelops the reader and draws them into a new reality. In addition, it’s vital that the world intensifies meaning and conflict and reflects the theme of your writing.
Here are some creative writing exercises for worldbuilding designed to bring up the emotions and feelings of places that hold meaning for you. Then you can use what you discover to fictionalize and construct a few landscapes with conflict and secrets.
- List out places from your life that inspired you. Choose one and write about it.
- Write about a place in your childhood where you loved to go. What did it mean to you? Why did you love it? What did you get to do there? How did that make you feel?
- Writing in 1st person narrative, describe and write about a place you love to go. Write about a place you hate to go. Write about a place where you feel uncomfortable. Now write about a place you dreamed. Write about a place you go in your imagination.
- Take the settings from #3 and list the objects you find. What else do you see? Now create some fictional objects. What can/do they mean? What subtext can they add?
- Write about a landscape that is in conflict with the people who live there. How does it change their behavior?
- Write about a neighborhood. Who lives there? What secrets are held within?
Warmed up? Okay, then lets get to it. Whatever you are writing, use these next questions to guide you as you discover your world. These creative writing exercises for worldbuilding and writing prompts are a jumping off point to help uncover details and see beneath the surface of your world.
Go to your world.
- Is it real or fictional or both? Physical or spiritual or both?
- Where and when is this world? Another time? Another place? Another planet?
- Is this world in another dimension? Is there magic here?
- What are the rules of physics here? How do you move about in this world?
- Why are you here? Why this place in particular?
- What sort of terrain does this world have? Is it dangerous? Safe?
- What is the weather like?
- How does the terrain and weather affect who lives here?
- Does the terrain and weather reflect/emphasize anything about the people here?
- What does the physical landscape uncover and reveal about what is beneath the surface?
- How does the physical landscape affect the behavior of the people who live here?
- Who lives here?
- List how people make a living.
- Is there conflict in work choice or lack thereof?
- Are there haves and have-nots?
- Are there class disputes?
- What is the social landscape?
- Are there cultural disputes? Are these disputes obvious? Subtle? To the boiling point?
- What are the values held? Are there opposing moral values? Who has them?
- What is the religion? What is an opposite or opposing religion? Branches of religions?
- Is there a choice and religious freedom?
- Is there a sense of right and wrong?
- Are there rituals in this world? What are they for? What do they mean?
- Do they have meaning beyond the obvious?
- Who is idolized? Who has admired social status?
- Who is disdained?
- Who is ignored? Who has no voice?
- How does social status affect the behavior of the people who live here?
Pull in closer.
- Look around. Where are you?
- What is the housing like here? How does it tie in with who lives here?
- How does the housing between groups or places differ and why?
Pull in closer again.
- What do you smell? What do you hear?
- What do you feel—is there a texture to the air? Is it easy to breathe?
- Are you warm? Cold?
- Do you feel heavy? Light? Physically, mentally or spiritually?
- Are you comfortable? Safe?
- Are you in danger? Threatened? From who or what?
- Who do you see? Who is here?
- Is there an object here? Is it important? To who?
- Does it have meaning? What?
- What is wrong here? What is at stake in this place?
Hopefully with the use of these creative writing exercises for worldbuilding, you now have a good feel for the world you are writing. Use these writing exercises whenever you need to construct a different world. Come back next month for more writing prompts and exercises. Until then, happy writing!